As many readers may know, last Friday, the feast of the Sacred Heart, began the year for priests, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the patron saint of parish priests, John Marie Vianney's birth into heaven. (It was entirely by coincidence that priestly ordinations here were on the same date; the ordinations were scheduled before the announcement of the year for priests.) Both in his letter proclaiming the year for priests, and in his homily on the opening day, he cited the saint's words, "The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus," words which reveal the tremendous gift of the priesthood, "tremendous" both in its original sense of awe-inspiring, and in its present sense of great.
As the Pauline year draws to a close, Pope Benedict drew a connection between St. Paul and St. John Marie Vianney: To let oneself be totally won over by Christ! "This was the purpose of the whole life of St. Paul… the goal of the entire ministry of the Holy Curé d'Ars." The effective ministry of priests depends not in the first rank upon study, upon pastoral or theological formation, but upon the "knowledge of love," the knowledge that is learned in the heart to heart encounter with Christ
The Church needs holy priests; ministers who can help the faithful to experience the merciful love of the Lord and who are his convinced witnesses. In the Eucharistic Adoration that will follow the celebration of Vespers, let us ask the Lord to set the heart of every priest on fire with that "pastoral charity" which can enable him to assimilate his personal "I" into that Jesus the High Priest, so that he may be able to imitate Jesus in the most complete self-giving.
The Congregation for the clergy has also set up a special website for the Year for Priests: www.annussacerdotalis.org